BEIJING, July 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Authorities in Guangdong, one of China's most populous provinces, will stick to the family planning policy and promote free premarital and pregnancy checkups to curb high birth defect rates, a senior official said.
Zhang Feng, director of the provincial population and family planning commission, made the remarks over the weekend at a seminar marking World Population Day, which fell on Sunday.
Guangdong is home to more than 100 million people, including about 97 million permanent residents - the largest number in the country - at the end of last year. Up to 1.2 million more will be born by the end of this year, Zhang said.
Per capita farmland in the province measures less than 0.03 hectares - not even half the national average and far less than the United Nations' warning level of 0.053 hectares, he said.
Because the huge population is stifling economic and social development, Guangdong still needs to stick to the family planning policy in its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), Zhang said.
He added that birth defects remain a problem because of endemic diseases, such as the blood disease thalassemia.
Up to 7 percent of newborns in Guangdong have mental or physical disabilities, which is more than the national average, he added.